This week’s focus is on COLLARBONE FRACTURES. It’s a big topic right now as one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, suffered this injury this past weekend. Unfortunately for Packers fans, it’s not looking good as it seems he’s going to be put onto the Injured Reserve. With an injury like this, considering it is his throwing arm, it might take a while for him to fully recover.
What is it?
Your collarbone is just another term for your clavicle. Medially, it attaches to the center of your chest (sternum) and attaches laterally at the scapula through the acromioclavicular ligament and the coracoclavicular ligaments. The collarbone plays a huge role in protecting soft tissue, nerves, and arteries that run in the front of your chest and also assists in upward movement of the shoulder.
How do you break your collarbone?
The two most common ways for the collarbone to break is through a direct blow to the shoulder (i.e. direct hit) or by falling directly onto the shoulder.
Is it broken?
It’s fairly easy to tell if you do break your clavicle as their will be a palpable bump near your shoulder. Other signs will include severe pain, inability to flex (raise) the arm, immediate swelling, as well as a grinding type sensation when trying to lift the arm. The most definitive way to tell is with an X-ray, however, it’s pretty obvious when you see one!
Do you need surgery?
In some cases, yes, surgery is indicated. If the fracture is bad (i.e. there’s fragments, severe break) then surgery is performed with an internal fixation (screws and bolts) to hold the bones together to promote healing.
If surgery is not indicated, then conservative treatment will usually include physical therapy to facilitate the healing process. After a fracture, patients will wear a sling to support the arm and to place it in a position that promotes normal healing of the broken bone.
Initial physical therapy includes gentle range of motion exercises to restore normal movement as well as pain reducing interventions (i.e. – manual therapy, heat/ice, electrical stimulation).
As you begin to restore range of motion, strengthening exercises can be introduced to restore normal mechanics and strength of the shoulder and upper arm muscles.
Full return to sports or activities can take up to between 3-5 months depending on the severity of the fracture as well as if proper facilitation of healing took place.
So there’s the basic explanation of the injury. It’s always sad to see great players have season-ending injuries, but it is part of the game. Unfortunately, Aaron Rodgers caught a bad break and now his season looks to be in jeopardy.
Dr. Jomar Farrales, PT, DPT